Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Florida Oranges in Hot Wooder?

Cynthia Green enjoyed both our Rebel-Yankee Tests and sent us this report:

“I took both of the tests and loved them. Fabulous job; it’s so interesting to see dialects presented in such a fun way.”

“My mother was raised in Florida and chronically “mispronounced” two words in particular to the neverending amusement of my sister and I. To her, an orange is an ‘AH-runj’, and the stuff that flows from the tap is ‘wood-er’.”

“I have never in my life heard anyone else use that pronunciation of H2O, and I’ve always been curious to know if this is a south Floridian thing or if my mom has been messing with my head for the past 35 years. :)”

I replied:

AH-runj is the careful pronunciation of “orange” pretty much throughout the South. Where I come from in central NC, however, we whittled this word down to one syllable: ahrnge (AHRNJ), i.e. iron (AHRN) plus a simple J. I pronounced it that way myself until cured in graduate school.

Pronouncing “water” (WAH-duh or WAR-der) as WOOD-er is a new one on me. It must be limited to a small area of Florida and I have no idea where it comes from—there must be something in your “wooder” down there.

In rural NC, this word was and is pronounced WAR-der. In the cities, however, where the accent of the upperclass British immigration prevailed, the preferred pronunciation is WAW-duh—no Rs. Today I pronounce it WATT-er, the result of living 50 years among the Yankee. But wooder? I can’t imagine. Must be something that drifted down there with the new immigration from New (as opposed to old) Jersey.

4 Responses to “Florida Oranges in Hot Wooder?”

  1. Jehanne Says:

    Just to throw everyone for a loop, I have to incriminate my extended family from the Philadelphia area in the “wood-er” crime. I’d always imagined that pronunciation came from that area, so it surprises me to find out they say it down in Florida too! My mother aggressively schooled herself when she was in her teens to pronounce the word as WATT-er, but most of her siblings still say wood-er.

  2. manoj Says:

    in maryland, the pronunciation of water is approximately close to “wooder”.

  3. Frances Says:

    “Wooder” is the way “water” is pronounced by natives of Baltimore, Maryland. It is classic “Baltimorese,” as explained by the late John Goodspeed of the Baltimore Sun in his Lexicon of Baltimorese.

  4. John Cramblit Says:

    To your list of places where H2O is pronounced WOOD-er, let me add my mother’s birthplace: Bargaintown, New Jersey. She did not leave her hometown until the age of 18, so it’s a good guess that WOOD-er can be found all along the eastern seaboard.

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